A century ago, our wildlife in the United States was in serious trouble. Unregulated market hunting led to near extinction for many popular game animals, from ducks to deer. Fortunately, early wildlife conservation pioneers like Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold recognized the urgency of the situation.
As a result, newly formed state fish and game agencies began managing wildlife resources for sustainability. These agencies created sensible, necessary regulations, such as licensing requirements, seasonal closures, and bag limits. But, there are some hunting laws on the books that are simply outdated, confusing, or downright stupid.
For example, one of the worst hunting laws in America prohibits unguided nonresidents from hunting big game on federally-designated wilderness areas in Wyoming. Here are some more regulations that should have sportsmen’s attention.
No Dove Hunting in Michigan
Mourning doves are classified as a migratory game bird in most of the United States, but in Michigan it’s illegal to hunt them. Despite the fact that nearly a million hunters around the country sustainably harvest well over 13 million mourning doves annually, in Michigan they’ve been considered a protected song bird for over 100 years.
Meanwhile, mourning dove populations are healthy throughout their range. Hunters have tried to get the law overturned, but an effort to repeal Michigan’s ban on dove hunting was defeated at the ballot box in 2006.
This one’s a real head-scratcher. Doves are the most popular game bird in America, and Michigan is generally hunter-friendly with one of the biggest hunting populations in the country. So, what gives?
No Sunday Hunting in the East
There are more than a dozen states around the country that prohibit or limit Sunday hunting. These outdated “blue laws,” rules meant to enforce religious observance, directly impact school-aged kids and working-class individuals who are only able to hunt on weekends or holidays.
The fight to overturn Sunday hunting bans is gaining steam. In Pennsylvania, where the state legislature has recently discussed repealing blue laws, it’s been determined that allowing Sunday hunting would not only double the number of available hunting days for most people, but would also increase hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation.
In turn, license sales would increase and conservation funding would follow suit. The overwhelming majority of hunters in states where these regulations are still on the books would like to see them overturned. At MeatEater, we feel there are simply no reasonable arguments to support their continued existence.
Meat Salvage Requirements in Wyoming and Idaho
Wanton waste laws require hunters to salvage all or the majority of edible meat from the animals they kill. At a minimum, most states require that hunters retain the four quarters and loins from big game animals. Alaska takes things a step further by requiring hunters to pack out all usable portions, including the neck and rib meat.
Many hunters, us included, regularly go above and beyond these legal requirements by keeping tasty extras like the heart, liver, and tongue of big game animals. If anything, we’d like to see stricter wanton waste laws around the country. That’s why it makes absolutely no sense to us that Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada do not require hunters to keep any meat from mountain lions or black bears. I recently spent a week at a bear hunting camp in Idaho where I and several other hunters killed black bears. Only two of us packed bear meat out of the woods. The thought of all the meat that was left behind to rot still sickens me. The fact that it was done legally is even more sickening.
Some states fall short on their wanton waste laws by allowing hunters to discard everything but the breast meat from wild turkeys and other game birds. Others allow hunters to leave big game shanks in the woods. But the complete lack of meat salvage requirements for black bears and mountain lions is indefensible. We’ve eaten enough lion and bear meat to know how good it is, but more importantly, such lax regulations only serve to strengthen the growing opposition to the idea of “trophy hunting.”
The List Goes On…
We’d love to be able to say that’s the complete list of the worst hunting laws in America, but there are plenty more out there. From restrictions on lighted arrow knocks to allowing hunters to legally shoot deer from a vehicle, we’ll be exploring more of the most absurd hunting regulations on the books. Make sure to check back for future installments.